Eddie Hearn is certain that Anthony Joshua will want to challenge Tyson Fury for his WBC heavyweight title if that bout becomes a realistic option for Joshua’s next fight.
Joshua’s promoter also acknowledged that facing Fury next probably isn’t ideal if Joshua is to continue to improve while working with his new trainer, Derrick James. The 33-year-old Joshua comfortably beat Jermaine Franklin on all three scorecards Saturday night at O2 Arena in London, the British superstar’s first fight with James in his corner, but Hearn admitted there is still plenty of room for Joshua to get better.
“It’s up to AJ and to Derrick,” Hearn said when asked during a post-fight press conference about making Fury-Joshua next. “AJ’s answer will be, ‘One hundred percent, yes.’ He was willing to take that fight in December, which was definitely the wrong time to take the fight. Derrick James is a hundred percent right. We should give him more time with Derrick James. But at the same time, every time he fights, big crowd, big purse, you know, and people are gonna want the right opponent.
“In an ideal world, sometimes in a trainer’s ideal world, the opponent won’t be enough to satisfy, you know, the broadcasters and the gate and stuff like that. But it’s gotta get the mix right between who and how much. You know?”
Hearn realizes that the paying public’s patience will be tested if Joshua (25-3, 22 KOs) doesn’t fight a heavyweight better than Franklin (21-2, 14 KOs) when he returns to the ring sometime this summer. British rival Dillian Whyte wants his rematch with Joshua to happen next, but it is unclear who the former IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO champion will box in the second of what he hopes will be three fights in 2023.
“I don’t think the public are necessarily gonna want him to have another two fights at the Jermaine Franklin level,” Hearn said. “They’re gonna wanna see him step up. If that’s Dillian Whyte, if that’s Tyson Fury, if that’s [Deontay] Wilder. And, you know, those guys will fancy their chances against AJ because they’ll think, ‘Oh, you know, there’s a chance that he’s not the fighter that he was,’ etcetera, etcetera. But I think AJ will box better against a high level of opposition, particularly people that are coming to win.”
Judges Steve Gray (118-111), Fabian Guggenheim (117-111) and Alex Levin (117-111) all scored Joshua a clear winner over Franklin, who tested Whyte (29-3, 19 KOs) in his previous fight – a 12-round, majority-decision defeat November 26 at OVO Arena Wembley in London. Joshua won a fight for the first time since he beat Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (29-3, 14 KOs), whom Joshua knocked out in the ninth round in December 2020 at OVO Arena Wembley.
“I thought the defense was good,” Hearn said. “You know, I thought his feet were good. I thought he took some decent shots, didn’t look hurt at all in the fight. I thought his engine was great. You know, normally at times he might look a bit tired in a fight. I thought he looked like he had plenty of energy. Just more, you know, more combinations. Probably work more on the inside, use his size on the inside as well. But after, like I said, Franklin, in the back end of the fight, seemed to come to survive.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.